London must come together to address the challenge of population growth

Alan Yarrow
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The capital’s population has reached an all-time high of 8.6m (Source: Getty)
The City of London Corporation has a uniquely diverse role. As lord mayor, my job is no exception, as the most cursory glance at my diary will tell you. One minute I’m in my wellies on Hampstead Heath, meeting our talented staff there, and the next I’m overseas promoting British business. But of all the Corporation’s roles, that of being a local authority is one of the most important.

The Corporation has a very important responsibility to the residents, workers and visitors who keep the City going. They are at the heart of everything we do and we are always looking for ways to serve them better, using our unique convening capability to get the right people in the right place at the right time.

On Thursday night, that place will be the Mansion House, and those people will be London’s local authorities, who will come together for the annual London Government Dinner with London’s Borough Leaders.

London faces some crucial challenges in 2015. Earlier this month, we had word that the capital’s population had reached an all-time high of 8.6m and would rise even higher in the future. All those people deserve services of the highest quality. The question all of us face is: how do we meet that need?

This is a big ask, with no quick fixes, and it is crucial that all of London’s leaders work collaboratively, hand-in-hand, to bring the greatest, most efficient benefit to the people who live and work here. A report released by London First last week highlighted some of the ways we need to adapt if London is to maintain its very positive recent momentum. Infrastructure, housing, employability, education, all of those areas – and more – need to see change.

A great example of how engagement can strengthen us is the fantastic City of London Academy in Southwark, which has a proven strong track record of preparing its leavers, with very few subsequently out of education, employment, or training. This is an extraordinary achievement, even more so when we consider the scale of the challenges laid out in London First’s report. We are working with our other academies to replicate that achievement in all of them.

One of the most important issues identified by the report is education: responding to market shortages of technically-capable workers by improving education and training. In other words, we must make sure that Londoners have the skills they need to succeed in a global marketplace. The Academy’s achievement is exactly the kind of thing that London needs to stay successful in the future.

London’s growing population presents many challenges – but it is also a sign of the city’s success. People are keen to come here, and they still see London as the best place in the world to live. Now is the time for London’s representatives to come together and pursue the changes that the capital needs if it is to remain as successful in the future as it has been in the past.

Alan Yarrow is lord mayor of London.

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